My life, like yours, is probably punctuated by vivid memories not of everyday events like walking the dog or mowing the lawn, but situations that are odd, or happen somewhere other than home. I recently had a one of those vivid re-memories while opening a can of tuna.
It’s early September, and I’m on vacation with my mother. We’ve stopped in Grasse, a town in southern France. I have purchased pan bagnat from a street vendor and then we walked about a mile uphill to a lovely park to sit down and eat. And then we got in one helluva fight.
Pan bagnat, literally “bathed bread”, is a huge roll stuffed with tuna, tomatoes, eggs, olives, green beans, and lettuce– a veritable Nicoise salad on a roll. It’s doused in either vinaigrette or aioli, or both. And as the name suggests, it’s wet, messy and oh-so-good. But when I bought the sandwiches, I neglected to grab napkins. And though I was reveling in my messy sandwich, my rather particular mother wouldn’t touch hers. She looked on in horror as tomato-tuna juice driped into my lap. You see, she’s a died in the wool neat-freak: a separate plate for everything, extra napkins, etc., and getting tuna juice down the front of one’s frock is a Mom-o no-no. So she made me walk the mile down the hill to get her a napkin. And boy was I mad.
I have to laugh now, because it was so her to demand a napkin and so me to just wipe my hands on my skirt. This recipe is in homage to that fine sandwich interuptus. I make one sans tuna with extra egg on it for my vegetarian husband. The other is loaded with canned Albacore tuna. The mayonnaise is based on Kewpie mayo, the ciabatta rolls are from my favorite grocery store/bakery: New Seasons. I use pickled green beans that my mother-in-law makes, I will post the recipe as soon as I can rustle it out her. I love Rick’s Picks pickled green beans, you can get those at Foster & Dobbs gourmet grocery if you live in Portland, or online.
Go ahead and try pan bagnat yourself, but maybe bust out a couple of extra napkins for the tidy eaters in your family to avoid any fights. Let me know what you think!
Pan Bagnat for Vegetarians and Omnivores
3 large eggs
2/3 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 heaping tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise
1 cup shaved fennel bulb
1 large heirloom tomato (I used Black Krim)
24 pickled green beans
Two 6-ounce cans solid Albacore tuna, drained
1 cup baby lettuce leaves
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Gently lower the eggs into the water, start a timer and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the eggs for 8 1/2 minutes. Transfer eggs to an ice bath. Once cool to the touch, peel the eggs and cut into thick slices using a cheese knife.
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, olives, garlic, and lemon juice. Spread liberally in the rolls. Lay the tomatoes, green beans, and fennel down on the bottom half of the rolls.
Vegetarian: Distribute about 5 slices of egg on one of the sandwiches. Top with lettuce and set aside on a plate.
Top the remaining sandwiches with the tuna and remaining lettuce. Serve.